I've been playing and writing about driving games since the days of Out Run. And while this genre has been transformed over the past three decades, some things remain the same, necessarily so.
Driving games, more than any other genre, are expected to look fabulous. This is because real life cars (at least the good ones) look fabulous. What's more, in comparison to organic matter, they are easily replicated digitally.
So with the coming of snazzy new gaming technology, a spiffing new driving game is just the ticket. The Atari 2600 was launched with Street Racer. PlayStation came into the world with Ridge Racer. Xbox was born alongside Project Gotham Racing,
It's an opportunity to show off those gleaming fenders, the shine of wet asphalt, the glare of moody skies.
Microsoft has prepared Forza Motorsport 7 for Xbox One, but also for the launch of Xbox One X, previously known as Scorpio, its revved-up 4K console. A demo is out today for Xbox One and Windows PC, offering a selection of cars and circuits.
I recently spent an hour playing through the early parts of Forza 7's single player campaign. I won't trouble you with adjectives about how good the game looks: the cars, the landmarks, even the drivers. The skies and the weather are particularly noteworthy, as weather patterns change during races, affecting road conditions along the way. You can decide for yourself by watching the video above, which was captured in HDR.
Forza 7's single player campaign allows me to switch between mini-campaigns centered on vehicle-types, as I work my way toward winning the Forza Drivers Cup. As I compete, I pick up new cars, upgrades, liveries and general stuff. I can also customize my driver, who takes a more central role than in previous games, and is seen outside the car as a real human, as well as inside, as the back of a bobbing head.
The Forza series has always excelled at what is, essentially, a simple mechanic. I steer left / right and I accelerate / brake in order to find the most efficient ratio between holding to the driving line and maintaining high speed. Racing is about fast reactions to changing circumstances, while encouraging the pursuit of perfection. It’s not just about winning races or achieving the fastest lap time, but about approaching the trickiest curves at just the right speed, and accelerating out of them at the ideal moment.
There’s also lot going on here in terms of choosing and tweaking cars and their various parts, selecting races and courses as well as simply being around these lovely machines. Beautiful cars are objects of desire. The fantasy of ownership is invigorating. For me though, the notion of being wealthy enough to actually own tons of amazing cars feels like a potential pain in the ass. I’m happy enough with the ersatz version of a video game.
Forza 7 features more than 700 cars and 30 locations,. It's out on Oct. 3 for Windows 10 PC and Xbox One, with the Xbox One X due to arrive on Nov. 7.